I am cutting the cord – at least on Sunday. Well, every Sunday. I spend on average at least 10 to 12 hours per work day on the computer. On the weekends, I spend less time than that, but still far too much. I need to regain control of my life. This means no more Internet on Sundays.
The first Sunday without Internet was two weeks ago and it went surprisingly well. No withdrawal symptoms, no website collapse, not even any missed deals on Amazon or eBay. What did happen is that time came back for reading real paper books, for writing with pen and paper, for working on the cars disassembled in the garage, and for baking. Yes, tomorrow there will be breakfast cooked before church and then eggnog rum bread baked in the afternoon.
Continue reading “Sunday without a Net”
The Internet is not as dangerous a place for children and teens as we previously thought, according to a recent law enforcement task force report. Real threats remain, however, and parents need to educate themselves and their children about online safety and privacy.
Be aware of Internet safety.
There are six major areas parents need to be concerned about:
- Amount of overall Internet/computer use
- Inappropriate websites—violence, pornography, hate groups
- Internet predators, perhaps posing as children or teens
- Online abuse and bullying
- Divulging confidential family information or ID numbers
- Downloading/installing malicious software
Create a family policy.
Your Internet policy will depend on how old your kids are and what level of individual responsibility you’re willing to grant them. The point is to have a policy.
- Use parental controls (see below) to enforce the level of safety you’re comfortable with.
- Ask the child to suggest a reasonable amount of daily computer usage. Reach agreement on this and then hold the child accountable. Renegotiate if necessary—again, the point is to have an agreed standard, not to expect that the limit will never be exceeded.
Continue reading “Teach Kids Online Safety”
Twitter has taken the Internet by storm in recent months, but there are still a lot of people and businesses who haven’t signed on or who have but just don’t get it. More than any other communication method, Twitter can be a bit like trying to sip from the fire hose. And to keep that water metaphor going, if you jump directly into the deep end of Twitter you will either drown or be eaten by the sharks.
The key to Twitter is in remembering that it is a communications medium, and to truly communicate the conversation must be two-way. You should be looking for quality in those you follow and who follow you, not quantity. Start by following your friends and business colleagues. Only after you get comfortable should you really start branching out. And, like any good conversationalist knows, the best way to interact with people is not by lecturing but by asking intelligent, open-ended questions. If you need help, just ask and people will usually jump right in.
Finally, so that you will be taken seriously and get the most out of your Twitter experience, there are a few things you need to do early on. The pointers below won’t change your life, but they will change your Twitter outlook. Just as with any professional presentation, you need to be aware of how people see you online and how that image creates an impression of you and your business.
- Fill out your Twitter profile completely. This means name, location, bio, and URL. Nothing is more frustrating, and confusing to me, than to go to the Twitter profile of a company or professional and find nothing there. Would you hand out a business card that listed no means to contact you? Then why would you have a profile with no URL? As for the geographic location, it doesn’t need to be specific but should at least let people know what time zone you are in. You can set all this by clicking on “Settings” up in the top right of your Twitter screen.
- Change the default avatar. The avatar is that little picture that appears beside each tweet to represent you. The default one is ugly, means you didn’t care enough to change it, and represents you in a bad way. Preferably change it to a nice little picture of yourself, but at least change it to a picture or logo of some sort. People come to recognize those avatars, so chose something that you want to be identified with – and the default one isn’t it. You can set you avatar picture by clicking on “Settings” and then “Picture” up in the top right of your Twitter screen.
- Don’t follow too many. Especially while you are still learning and gaining speed, don’t follow too many people. First of all, you will get swamped and get lost. Second of all, other people gauge how “real” you are by how many people you are following vs how many are following you. So, if you have followed 700 people but only 10 are following you – chances are pretty good that you are a spammer of some sort. Try not to follow more than about twice as many people as are following you. So, if you only have 5 people following you, don’t follow more than 10. I know it can be hard, but if you start by following your friends, colleagues, and me(!) you will find you can build number fairly quickly. Remember, the goal here is quality not quantity.
- Give it a rest. OK, this is an odd one, especially for me. The truth is though that there are times when you should just step away from the keyboard – or cell phone as the case may be. If you are using Twitter for professional purposes, then you really don’t want to tweet when you are inebriated, under medication, or very late at night. The Internet has a very long memory and the things you say have a way of coming back to haunt you. Additionally, people who are following you for your professional wisdom may get tired of hearing about where you are going to lunch. Sure you need to inject some humanity and humor into your messages, just be careful not to overdo it.
Twitter can be daunting so take it slow but don’t give up. And don’t forget to follow me and send me a tweet!
Presented here for your approval are a few handy free web-based utilities that will help with some bothersome tasks. None of these utilities is complicated or difficult to use. They are also probably not something you are going to use every day. But, when you need the service they have to offer, you usually need it badly and quickly!
The first is CometDocs which will convert documents from one format to another. The most powerful conversion in my book is the conversion of PDF files to Word or text documents. Not only does this make all those frustrating read-only files editable, but it maintains the formatting and is far less prone to error than OCR. I have tried this conversion on multiple documents and have had consistent success. Beyond converting PDFs, CometDocs can transfer between all sorts of Office and Graphics files. The utility is quite easy to use in that after the free sign up, all you do is upload the file to the service and it is email back to you.
Another on-line utility that I use all the time is WordOff. When you generate html files for a website with Microsoft Word, Word puts tons of extra code in the document that not only bloats the file, but can also mess up the formatting. WordOff just strips all that extra Microsoft Formatting out. Just the kind of utility I like – a one trick pony that does that trick to perfection.
Finally, a service called DialMyCalls is excellent if you need to keep groups of people updated by phone on news, events, or statuses. After signing up, you can record short phone messages of up to 30 seconds and the service will then broadcast that message out to the list of phone numbers you establish. DialMyCalls is free for one message per day to up to 25 people. That would roughly cover a small office or youth soccer team. If you need more people or messages, you can sign up for the pay service at rates of 7 cents per call or less. A great time saver if you have lots of calls to make and also don’t want to get caught talking to lots of people because you have work to do!
So there you have some useful tools that can help solve that one particular problem you might be having. Bookmark them and store them away under “Web Tools” and just pull them out of the toolbox when needed. And don’t forget about DropBox for online file storage and sychronization and Mozy for backups. All free, and all great.